Some memories are clearer than others, this one is crystal. I remember walking from Aquinas Hall to the University Center on a Wednesday night in April 2016. I didn’t know then, but the next half hour would change my life.
I remember being greeted by Anthony DePalma, the professional-in-residence who told me to visit during production of The Setonian following his News Literacy class.
DePalma did his editing outside the conference room where the editorial board was situated. He had served as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, documenting the Zapatistas in Mexico and Fidel Castro in Cuba. He had an enchanting aura of expertise, wisdom and charm that only comes from decades of life and real-world encounters. He made the grueling work of reporting seem romantic, and I fell in love.
But walking into the conference room was overwhelming. I saw a dozen or so people hunched over laptops around the circular table. Honestly, it seemed miserable. Still, I sat there for several minutes and observed, understanding very little and pretending it all made sense.
I then went into the hallway and chatted with Gary Phillips, then The Setonian’s Sports Editor. He seemed to have it all together, as most ambitious upperclassmen do to freshmen. At the beginning, it’s hard to fathom how much personal growth can take place in three or four years. That day feels like a lifetime ago.
About the time I became a staff writer, Elizabeth Swinton became the Sports Editor. At the start, we only communicated via email; there was a period of a couple months where the miniscule, pixelated avatar on emails was the only face I had to put to her name.
Without Liz, I wouldn’t be the journalist I am today. I’m so glad she was persistent. She didn’t have a spare minute, but still found time to give regular feedback, texting or emailing me with corrections. When I repeated mistakes, she could have given up in exhaustion, but instead enforced the right principles. Her work ethic is truly one of a kind.
I’ve tried to repay what she did for me, not just with The Setonian, but in my roles with WSOU and outside of school. I hope that one day someone can tell me with sincerity that I inspired them as much as those three inspired me.
I gained a priceless perspective from the athletes who opened their hearts to me and let me tell their story. My favorite from the last three years was on Seton Hall’s former men’s soccer captain Pedro Neto, who took time out of his nights and money out of his pockets and delivered food and smiles to the homeless people at South Orange Train Station.
Pedro had been inspired to pay it forward, and in a different way, so have I.
James Justice is a visual and sound media major from Caldwell, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.